Defense leads way in ASU workout

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 12, 2003

LORMAN &045; Johnny Thomas sat alone on the east side of Jack Spinks Stadium late Saturday afternoon in a white Kansas City Chiefs’ polo shirt and a dark pair of sunglasses and, for the most part, liked what he saw.

He wasn’t Bear Bryant, Eddie Robinson or Steve Spurrier, but Thomas’ Purple team’s 16-7 victory over White in the annual Spring game was convincing enough for Thomas, who will begin his sixth year when the Braves kickoff at Arkansas-Pine Bluff Aug. 30.

&uot;I think we accomplished the purpose of a spring game, and that is to let everybody get in there and play,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;You really don’t care who wins the spring game as long as all the players can experience game-type situations.

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In 75 plays the defense &045; a.k.a Purple &045; was the star of the matinee with the offense &045; White &045; as its understudy. Each forced punt meant a point for the people eaters; three straight three-and-outs equaled a field goal. Offense tallied points the old-fashion way, with the exception that a point could be earned with three first downs in a drive.

White rotated three quarterbacks in the 90-minute scrimmage, which felt more like a summer beach trip than early April in the woods. A trio of signal callers, sure, but not one of them included Ohio State transfer Jermaine Guinyard.

Guinyard, a 6-1, 180-pound San Diego, Calif., native who was not part of the Buckeyes’ romp to the national championship, left the Braves last week after deciding not to jockey for position with leader Donald Carrie.

&uot;(Guinyard) is no longer with us. There is no bitterness or resentment between any of us,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;We didn’t want him to move to another position because that was not why we recruited him to come here.

&uot;It’s just one of those situations that happens at all programs. We always want athletes to do what’s best for them.&uot;

Carrie outshone backup redshirt freshmen Landon Taylor and Milton Green Saturday by connecting on 9 of 19 passes for 122 yards. However, he never led White to a scoring drive. Kicker David McConnell’s foot was Carrie’s best friend.

Despite the drought on the seven drives the clipboard was not in Carrie’s hands, Thomas handed out bouquets to his junior QB from New Orleans but said the play is only in its first act.

&uot;Donald Carrie is our starter at this point,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;He had an outstanding spring for us and has increased the level of his competitiveness with the people we brought in. He’ll have to increase that performance in the summer and fall to keep that position &045; as will every one else.&uot;

Returning senior back Sidney Dumas got the majority of handoffs Saturday, but it was the bruising freshman Jeremy McCoy who broke off the game’s ESPN moment and White’s only score.

On fourth and inches from his own 44-yard line, McCoy slid through the gut of the line and was gone. Fifty-six yards later, despite having defensive back Taurian Parks jar the ball loose for a moment, McCoy tasted his first collegiate paydirt.

&uot;It was all the offensive line’s doing,&uot; said McCoy, who finished with 74 yards on four carries. &uot;I just followed my blockers and wanted to get past the secondary. It was cool. I enjoyed that.&uot;

McCoy is an ingredient in what Thomas hopes is a healthy, robust Alcorn offense. The redshirt from Dallas adds depth in the backfield and is a great counter to the slippery Dumas, who sliced his way to 50 yards on nine carries.

With nine season-ending injuries during last year’s 6-5 mediocre finish, Thomas put a strong emphasis during the offseason on recruiting junior college players to complement the chosen ones already on campus.

&uot;We have to have quality backups,&uot; he said. &uot;It got to a point last year where our talent on the field was reduced tremendously. It put us in a hard situation to win. This year we recruited some prospects to get that depth I’m talking about.&uot;

Thomas liked what he saw from his defense. You remember the old clich: offense wins games, defense wins Š spring games?

Purple got to White’s collection of quarterbacks more than 10 times unofficially, surpassing defensive line coach Willie McGowan Jr.’s pregame prognostication.

&uot;The defensive line played pretty well today as well as the linebackers and secondary, but they all have to get better&uot; Thomas said. &uot;We must continue to improve overall as a team. We just need to continue to increase our depth in case of injuries.&uot;